As the White House hosts its Countering Violent Extremism Summit, Jewish advocacy group the Anti-Defamation League today published a new report exploring the impact the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other Islamic terrorist groups have on domestic security through the radicalization and recruitment of American citizens and residents.
ISIS’s increasingly sophisticated social media and recruitment strategies have not only attracted thousands of recruits around the world, but have also aided in the emergence of Syria and Iraq as the destinations of choice for this generation of extremists, according to the ADL report, “Homegrown Islamic Extremism in 2014: The Rise of ISIS & Sustained Online Recruitment.”
“As the nation and the world turn their attention to the Countering Violent Extremism Summit in Washington, D.C., we are pleased to see that the White House is taking the rapidly expanding threat posed by online terrorist recruitment seriously. The spreading influence of ISIS and related groups on social media is a most serious concern,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
ADL’s report demonstrates the relatively broad appeal of this sophisticated propaganda machine, evidenced by the diversity of the individuals responding to terrorist recruitment efforts in the U S. The following are included among the ADL report’s main findings:
At least 17 American citizens and permanent residents, motivated by the Islamic extremist ideologies of ISIS and other groups, were charged in 2014 with terror related offenses.
Three others were identified as having died while fighting with terrorist groups abroad, and an additional five minors are believed to have attempted to join ISIS but were not charged.
The 25 individuals in the U.S linked to terrorist activity motivated by Islamic extremist ideology range in age from 15 to 44, with an average age of 24.5 and a median age of 21.
At least 22 of the 25, or 88 percent, read, watched or shared online extremist propaganda.
The states with the highest numbers of recruits in 2014 were Minnesota, Virginia, California, Illinois and North Carolina, with three individuals from each.
Eight of the 25 Americans in the 2014 study–some 32 percent–are women. ADL documented a total of only 12 female U.S. citizens and permanent residents with similar links to terrorism in the entire 11 years between 2002 and 2013.
The ADL report provides examples of how anti-Semitism remains one of the fundamental components of terrorist propaganda online, often containing explicit calls for violence against distinctly Jewish targets around the world. ISIS, Al Qaeda Central, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) all used anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments in their propaganda, both as a means to advance their own missions and to rally recruits.
Oren Segal, Director of ADL’s Center on Extremism, said that, “A terrorist-free internet may not be possible, but understanding how terrorist networks exploit internet platforms and who is responding to such propaganda is the first step in mitigating the threat.”